Think of the last vehicle you bought.
Whether new or used, it represented a major purchase.
Chances are you didn't walk into the dealership, point at the vehicle, and tell the salesperson, "I'll take it!" More likely, you did your homework beforehand and asked plenty of questions. In essence, you made sure you felt more than confident about the purchase before signing on any dotted line and driving away.
Building a custom home – the kind of major investment most only make once in a lifetime – is no different. Asking questions is expected throughout the entire process.
Wondering, “What questions should I ask a potential home builder?”
We've compiled a list of questions to ask a builder when building a custom home to get you started.
5 Base-Level Questions to Ask Custom Home Builders
As with any home construction project – or major purchase – there are some base-level questions that the future homeowner needs to ask well before building starts.
While there is an element of flexibility with most custom home projects, nothing stalls a project or creates frustration like addressing a concern that should have been handled at the beginning.
Five questions to ask a custom home builder before putting a shovel in the ground are:
- What's the cost?
- What's the timeline to completion?
- Past project examples (references)?
- Are there any limitations?
- Who's my point of contact?
1. What's the Cost?
Undoubtedly the #1 question every custom home builder receives. In truth, there's not a more important first question. Where your budget and the realities of building your dream home meet up can mean the difference between starting a project as you envision or exploring other options.
Keep in mind: without knowing the specifics of your project down to the smallest details, it's impossible for a custom home builder to give you anything beyond an initial estimate or ballpark figure.
Resource: While we can't tell you exactly what it will cost to build your Barden custom home, we dive into what comprises the final bill:
2. What's the Timeline to Completion?
Next to cost, this is the most common question. And it takes a few iterations. For instance:
- How long will construction take?
- When can I move into my new home?
- From start to finish, what's the timetable look like?
Regardless of how you ask it, understanding the project timeline from day one is a major factor to continue before committing to building a custom home.
In addition to being a major financial investment, custom home building requires an investment of time. There are many factors that contribute to a project's time to completion, including the size and scope of the effort as well as the type of construction method used for building. In short, some normal elements of home building may not meet your expectations for project completion, and there's no better time to understand them than before starting work.
Resource: What does the construction timeline look like with Barden custom homes? Download a copy of our Custom Home Building Checklist:
3. Past Project Examples?
Essentially a reference check of sorts, examples of past projects can tell you a lot about the builder and the types/styles of homes they build (more on that later).
Checking out a few past projects completed by the builder can include walkthroughs of completed homes or online photo galleries. Evaluate their work objectively, with an eye for both craftsmanship and functionality. Is there attention to detail in the construction, materials used, and design? Are all fixtures and other materials high quality?
Resource: Curious what past clients are saying about their Barden homes? Find out here!
4. Are There any Limitations?
Perhaps your dream home is a ranch that has an open-concept floor plan. Or maybe it's a log home that doesn't skimp on modern amenities.
Your vision on the perfect home might not coincide with your builder's abilities. Some custom home builders specialize in constructing a certain type of home. Others may have a catalog of standard building materials that lacks depth and breadth, meaning they might not be able to get an element – say a certain type of window – without charging a premium.
In a certain respect, you're investigating the builder's definition of "customizable" and how far their services and sourcing goes.
Bonus Resource: What comprises Barden custom homes? Check out our Materials Catalog:
5. Who's my Point of Contact?
No matter your level of involvement (another more on this later), the last thing you should have to worry about is being able to get a hold of someone during your project.
Understand, the person you talk to at the beginning of your project might not be the one you need once plans are approved and construction starts.
A good project manager should always have a point of contact available for you throughout the entire project. This person should be able to answer questions, address concerns, and provide progress updates whenever they are requested.
Further Reading: With Barden projects, you'll interface with a Barden Independent Dealer.
6.5 Higher-Level Questions to Ask a Custom Home Builder
Back to the last vehicle you bought.
During your conversation with the salesperson, you probably didn't ask just a few questions about the car. Rather, the conversation was characterized by plenty of queries aimed at really understanding the vehicle, e.g. past owners, vehicle mechanics, etc.
To that end with your next home, there are several higher-level questions to ask a builder when building a custom home, too:1. What’s not included in my project?
2. What does the payment situation look like?
2.5 What if I'm acting as My Own General Contractor?
3. How is my project price secured?
4. What’s my role in the project?
5. What do revisions to my floor plan look like?
6. Does my home have a warranty?
1. What's Not Included in My Project?
Building a custom home is a complex process with many components. Knowing what you're getting and what you’re not prevents any surprises down the line.
Many custom home builders provide design packages that include interior finishes, fixtures, appliances, and other materials. Some even include landscape work, decks, patios, etc.
However, other custom home builders may offer a-la-carte service, so to speak. In other words, you may need to turn elsewhere to get certain project elements done. Site prep and foundation installation are good examples. So is drafting and design services – not every custom home builder or dealer offers either.
Resource: Speaking of design and drafting ... Did you know both services are included with Barden custom home projects? Learn more about these services.
2. What Does the Payment Situation Look Like?
Back to the dollars and cents of custom home construction.
As we've alluded to, all custom home dealerships are different. Thus, they each have different expectations for how you'll handle the financials of your project.
Generally speaking, most require:
- An initial down payment
- Several draws during construction to pay for labor and materials
- A final payment upon a final inspection
2.5 But What if I'm Acting as my Own General Contractor
To back up a second – some custom home companies allow the future homeowner to complete the construction of their custom house. We do.
In the event you're acting as your own general contractor, you'll likely be:
- Making a down payment to the custom home dealer for services rendered
- Paying any subcontractors
- Making a final payment to the custom home dealer
3. How is my Project Price Secured?
Back to working with a custom home dealer who will be constructing your home or managing the project.
The total cost of your project is somewhat fluid. Things can come up during construction that affects the final bill – say a spike in material costs such as lumber or an unforeseen issue that requires a specialty contractor.
Most custom home dealers are able to give you a solid project quote once the final plans are agreed on and they're able to move quickly on purchasing materials. They'll also provide a "not to exceed cost," which provides a buffer for the unforeseen. Of note, there are some custom home builders who do guarantee project prices. However, meeting that guarantee counts on everything going right with no costly changes to the project later on.
Further Reading: Eager to see what your project's final price tag will likely look like? These project details will help your custom home builder figure that out.
4. What’s My Role in the Project?
As far as you go, some future homeowners are content to take a hands-off approach and work with a builder who handles the majority of the project's heavy lifting. That also means having a limited design process, or simply selecting a floor plan and making no adjustments to it.
Others, however, are more involved in the entire process, acting as a de facto project manager. Some future homeowners even act as their own general contractors. In that event, you're doing the vast majority of the work and coordination, with your custom home dealer providing a supporting role.
Regardless of your level of involvement, it's good to understand the expectations upfront. That way, there are no surprises for either the homeowner or custom home builder later on.
5. What's the Revisions Process to My Floor Plan Like?
The answer to this question can go a few ways, and it all depends on your builder:
- The revision process is as simple as making changes until you're satisfied.
- You're welcome to make revisions, but it will cost you. This is especially true if you have to work with an architect.
- You're limited on the number of revisions you can make.
Either way, remember: there does come a point where decisions need to be finalized. Ideally, that's before production of your home's building components starts. And even if your builder or architect charges fees for revisions, remember: it's much easier and cheaper to make changes before construction begins.
Further Reading: Why The Best Architect for Building Your Dream Home is You
6. Does my Home Have a Warranty?
One final trip back to the last vehicle you purchased.
When you drove your vehicle off the lot for the first time, you didn't do so without some protection from the unforeseen. Chances are the vehicle did have a warranty – even a limited one – to cover any malfunctions or other issues within at least your first month of ownership. Ideally, you won't need to use it. But should something go wrong, it's there to protect your investment.
The same goes for a custom home. Many custom home dealers do offer a warranty, but the terms and duration vary.
If your home does have a warranty, be sure to ask:
- What does it cover?
- What doesn't it cover?
- Who will provide services?
- Is an immediate post-construction inspection required and who will be conducting it?
FYI: Barden homeowners can purchase a 10-year RWC Structural Component Warranty. Learn more about this coverage option.
Questions to Ask a Builder When Building a Custom Home | Everything's Fair Game
When it comes to constructing your dream home, nothing should be taken for granted or left to chance. That's why asking the right questions is so important – there's nothing worse than making a major investment with uncertainty.
Keep in mind – these questions are a foundation of sorts. This list is a starting point for your conversations with custom home dealers. As you progress, more questions are bound to come up as the project takes shape.
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